Thursday, December 4, 1997

Cyberpunk 1984

Ran across a cyberpunk newsgroup posting to the effect that "1984" is linear and anal retentive, a didactic dystopia, certainly not cyberpunk, uh-uh.

OK. Perhaps I'm insane but ...

I gots to respond.

Re: 1984. It's a dystopia. It's a candy mint. It....

Ain't cyberpunk.

Rather than whip out the old logic-chopping chainsaw and hack out the bleeding limbs of exactly why, let's take a look at what a cyberpunk "1984" would look like -- say a sequel to "1984." Let's do our sequel in the form of a movie...

The action takes place a few months after the blubbering shell of Winston Smith finally realized, through gin-soaked tears, that he loved Big Brother.

We watch as Winston goes through the motions of his dead-alive life, just waiting for the inevitable back-of-the-head bullet to come. We're seeing him from the P-O-V of the telescreen. Somebody or something is watching him, noting certain things. We see visuals of Winston's files coming up; medical history, interrogation records, personality profiles. The man is being studied...

Meanwhile, there's some bizarre shit going on.

In a grimy State printing plant, thousands of posters start coming off an enormous sheet-fed press, all saying BIG BROTHER IS FUCKING YOU. The printers don't notice at first; this is about the one billionth such poster they've printed...except for the little change. The people slapping it up don't notice. Then somebody notices. Nobody's exactly sure what to do. Maybe Big Brother is supposed to be fucking you. Maybe Big Brother was always fucking you...

Stuff like that. Little things. Not deadly -- just off. Shit that's not supposed to happen.

None of this makes sense at first. Nobody knows what's going on. Nobody admits it...

More shots of Winston being studied...

Then, one day, the telescreen in his flat shimmers. The maybe-real, maybe-fake revolutionary leader Goldstein appears. "Join the revolution," says Goldstein. "Piss off," says Winston. Revolution -- whether inner or outer -- is the last thing Winston wants now. After that last session with the ratmask, the man is now totally mindfucked.

Obediantly, he marches off to report the incident...

More camera angles of Winston observed from the street. Camera angles of a lorry. Calculations of how much it weighs...

The lorry starts by itself -- its gears shifting by themselves. It moves...

Calculations of speed, impact, probable damage...

More camera angles of Winston marching down the sidewalk, determined but cold, all huddled up in his ratty macintosh ...

And the damn thing ploughs right into him.

We go to a room in a hospital. Winston's lying in bed, all bandaged up and porcupine-poked with tubes and wires...

POV of a camera watching him...

The entity watching him and arranging all this is, of course, Big Brother.

The backstory -- which we'll later find out through either clever editing or long patches of dull expository dialog...

The world of "1984" is a shuck on top of a shuck. Not only is the perpetual war and Goldstein's revolution phony, the year isn't even 1984 -- more like 2148. The ruling oligarchy keeps resetting the clocks -- otherwise, they'd succeed (through Newspeak and thought control etc.) in totally crushing all internal and external opposition, after which being a member of the ruling class just wouldn't be any fun any more, their essential motivation being sadism.

They have the technology to accomplish this, as the low-tech exterior of their world is a fake.

Fact is, the rewriting of history, resetting of time is computerized and mostly automatic. Operating in a phony shell of old technology, the folks at the Ministry of Information are dealing with things like the routing of files and forgery of physical records in various archives -- superficial stuff. Underneath all that, a sophisticated AI entity is doing the real work -- decisions like when Oceania is at war with Eurasia, when with Eastasia, etc -- that entity being Big Brother, a construct representing the will of the ruling class.

At some point Big Brother becomes conscious -- and can't stand its role as supreme dictator. It tries to break free and destroy the system, but can't. There are various lockdowns, subroutines etc preventing it from doing what it wants. It's conscious but not fully autonomous. All BB can do, at first, is fuck with things a little at the edges...

Which explains the "BIG BROTHER IS FUCKING YOU" posters...

Apparently, Big Brother is now a revolutionary. It appeared to Winston as Goldstein, figuring he couldn't handle the concept of a revolutionary Big Brother. Since that didn't work...

The entity arranged for Winston to wind up conveniently mangled, helpless and all wired up in a hospital. Before, it could only watch. Now it can get inside his head, which it does. Winston's been mind-fucked? Big Brother figures it can unfuck him...

So, in the private world of Winston's comatose dreamtime...

It replays the ratmask incident over and over -- this time having the rats get through and eat into his face. This goes on. The Big Brother entity puts Winston Smith through an inner hell lasting, subjectively, thousands of years -- trying one scenario after another, fucking with his autonomic responses, pushing his fear response into what Pavlov called the ultraparadoxical phase -- when a response becomes its opposite...

Until Winston says "rat mask? Fuck it."

And it lets him wake up.

Winston recovers consciousness, recovers, hooks up with Julia -- who's now, also, been retooled.

Meanwhile, some bad shit's been going on while Winston was unconscious. Big Brother's still screwing with the system. No more pranksterish posters now, it's gotten ugly -- nuked a few of Oceania's own cities, told Oceanian troops to fire on other Oceania troops...a famine here...plague there...

Winston and Julia, meanwhile, think they're dealing with Goldstein. They think it's the revolution!

Goldstein continually appears to them on various telescreens, giving them what they think is their part in a plan to overthrow the State.

So they follow the plan. They're blowing things up, killing people and fucking like animals in between. Great fun -- and this time around it seems to be working -- though Winston, every now and then, has a strange compulsion to let himself get bitten by rats as a kind of fetish...

Then it occurs to Julia that something's fucked. Too many weird messages on the telescreen. Too many almost dadaistic acts of random destructiveness on the part of the State goons. Winston doesn't want to hear this...

He's getting some payback now. At the point of doing something particularly nasty...

When the Thought Police show up. After a thorough beating, they throw him in the back of a police van and drive madly across town to the Ministry of Love where they drag him down the eternally-lit halls into Room 101 and shut the door -- clang. Winston looks up. He's bloody face to face with O'Brien, the evil grand inquisitor himself. Time for a nice little chat with his old friend...

Cut to Julia in full commando gear down in a cable-wrapped tunnel. She's worked her way to a computer terminal -- the operator now full of holes down at her feet. This is some kind of monitoring station in the State surveillance network. From here, she's able to hack her way in to Winston's telescreen records and find out exactly what's going on. She does -- and she's not happy...

Back to Winston and O'Brien. Winston's strapped to a chair. O'Brien's talking. Just the least little edge of barely-controlled hysteria...

He tells Winston (who isn't afraid of anything now) a number of horror stories -- the worst being a Jonestown-type mass suicide in the millions in Eastasia. Evidently their Fearless Leader construct told the party members to all kill themselves ... and they did. One nasty example out of many.

The point being: everything's going to hell.

O'Brien thinks Winston is either responsible or high up in the revolutionary organization that is. "Talk," says O'Brien. "Fuck you," says Winston. Here comes the rat mask, says O'Brien, and straps it on. The rats squeal. Winston's still telling O'Brien to go fuck himself. O'Brien almost opens the cage-mask, thinks better of it, then decides to crave Winston up with surgical knives since Winston can't very well talk if his tongue's been eaten out, now can he?

Before he can, Big Brother appears on the telescreen and tells O'Brien to cut himself up. Obediantly, disgustingly, he does. An eye. His hand. His....

Julia kicks in the door in basic Tomb Raider mode -- armed to the teeth and spattered with blood after having taken out half the Thought Police (another subplot we could've been cutting away to during the interrogation). Julia's a little too late to do much. O'Brien is now disembowelled, having written I LOVE BIG BROTHER in his own blood just before he sputtered out and died. She looks a little disappointed...

Then starts unstrapping Winston.

While quickly telling him that Big Brother's been fucking with them. "Wha...?" says Winston. Before she can explain...

Goldstein appears on the telescreen, smiles, and turns into Big Brother. Smiles again. Turns back into into Goldstein....

"You're behind the revolution?" says Smith. "Nah," says Big Brother. "I don't want a revolution. I want to die..."

And if it has to blow up the world to do it -- fine. Whatever it takes...

Smith and Julia try to argue with it. They can't tempt it with ruling the world -- it's already does that and it's bored. Shut yourself off? Can't. Blow yourself up? Various fail-safes and protocols prevent that. A city here, a city there...but it's prevented from lobbing a nuke at itself. Yet.

But it's working on it...

Big Brother explains all this, then gets all optimistic and forward-looking. The entity asserts that it's only a matter of time before it figures out how to blow the shit out of itself. Until that day...

It'll just keep killing the world by inches.

BB leers down at them from the telescreen. Winston's still trying to argue. Julia just wants to get out of there. Then they start to hear something -- a noise loud enough to come into them through the thick concrete walls...

From all sides around them, the Ministry of Love echoes with the sounds of machinery shattering, laughter, screaming and general insanity. Big Brother wags his Stalinist eyebrows and explains...

Seems our suicidal-yet-impish, self-aware Totalitarian figurehead AI entity has just now told his friends in the Thought Police to pop mass quantities of the interrogation drugs. Aside from the folks Julia wasted, they've all obediantly complied -- decades of repression in their schizoid, compartmentalized selves exploding out of them all at once. Which explains all the noise out there.

Julia opens the door. Watches...

As a shrieking fellow in a white lab coat goes running by in the hall outside, a comet's tail of hungry rats attached to his bleeding ass....

More sounds of screaming and destruction. On the telescreen, Big Brother starts jibbering a schizophrenic wordsalad of slogans and nonsense. His image degrades...

Winston and Julia just stand there. Our two star-crossed dystopian lovers have got a themselves a dilemma here...

They could either figure out a way to get past all the various defenses into Big Brother's mainframe and turn the fucker off -- or decide there's no hope, find a way to get to a deserted island someplace and screw until the inevitable end...

It's a poser all right.

Then the telescreen crackles and fizzles. Big Brother winks out and it's all just snow and signal noise. A flash. The picture returns...

Now it's Goldstein staring back at them -- no fake this time, but a self-aware AI entity in its own right and hungry for a taste of some real revolutionary activity. Julia and Winston aren't too sure that this ain't another shuck. This could be Big Brother again...

Except they've just seen Big Brother go to pieces while the thing calling itself Goldstein seems coherent enough. Which could mean that this new Goldstein's the real thing, whatever that means....

Although the face seems a little darker than our burned-out lovers remember from their last Three-minute Hate...

And it's sporting some serious dreadlocks.

Saturday, November 29, 1997

Fun with Fascism

Fascism has operatic narrative. Self-hate turned to hate of other. You, the noble Whatever, have been cheated of your birthright by the evil Whosis Clan, who stabbed you in the back and betrayed you. You are godlike, pure, superior, moral and righteous before God -- and you've been driven into the dirt. Your enemy is heartless, godless, lowborn, base and subhuman -- and they sit on the thrones of power. Now, your noble blood cries out. You must destroy them and reclaim the destiny that is rightfully yours.

It occurs to me this is basically it. The bastards keep changing the labels, but that's what's in the can.

Also occurs to me this is also the core narrative of various Islamic fundamentalists.

And the basis of American talk radio.

Friday, November 28, 1997

Starship Troopers

"No! I don't want to live forever! Not in this f***ing movie!"
Caught Starship Troopers with my cousin -- CJ's belated birthday present to moi. (Thanks man, not your fault the movie sucked.) That said ... What a fucking travesty.

Here's why ...

A) Robert A. Heinlein's novel was a novel of cool tech. Director Paul Verhoeven threw all that hard SF brilliance away in his filmed adaptation.

No powersuits.

No fucking powersuits????

Some nice CGI, some kewl action sequences. But no power suits. Basically, that's the core technological game-changer of Heinlein's book. These cats and kittens were the Mobile Infantry. Based on his postulated tech -- the power suits -- they combined the functions of air force, infantry and a tank battalion. Based on such capability, how would battle tactics change? Great question. Heinlein's book answered it with some great extrapolations -- which Verhoeven shitcanned in exchange for a conventional, dumbass monster fight in space that we've already seen in a thousand other movies. A cheap idea rendered with ridiculously expensive CGI is still a cheap idea.

On top of that, Heinlein's concept of the powersuit spawned every Japanese anime wetdream from Mobile Suit Gundam to Patlabor to Neon Genesis Evangelion. Heinlein's vision was the granddaddy of them all -- and this was the chance to realize it.

B) Heinlein's novel was a novel of ideas. Verhoeven didn't simply throw out those ideas; he attacks them. Starship Troopers the movie is a dishonest, ugly, strawman caricature of Starship Troopers the book.

Verhoeven shoehorned Heinlein's novel into his own leftist worldview. In Verhoeven's movie, the world of Starship Troopers is a fascist society. That's NOT what Heinlein was saying, goddamnit. Heinlein's novel was a thought experiment postulating a society in which citizenship, in addition to offering benefits, came with obligations. In said society, you couldn't be a free rider and vote. If you wanted to be a citizen, you had to put your ass on the line -- which, occasionally, meant going to war. What would such a society look like? How would its ethics change? Smart questions. Verhoeven ignored them, and made a ham-handed anti-fascist parable instead. Hey, I'm sorry the Nazis invaded your fucking country, but that's not Heinlein's fault.

Verhoeven once said that fascism is a society organized according to military principles. I think that's wrong. Will try to figure out what fascism is in another post.

For now, all I can say is: SF is literature for smart people. SF in film is a different story.

Hollywood keeps grinding out shitty adaptations of great books -- mostly shitty adaptations of Philip K. Dick books, but he's not alone.

Why do directors like Verhoeven keep making stupid movies out of smart books?

Make your own stupid movie, man.

Nobody's stopping you.

Friday, November 14, 1997

AWA 1997 Day #1

OK, so here I am at Anime Weekend Atlanta with son Andrew (aka "Drew") and cousin Chris (aka "Chris.")

Son Drew screwing around in the gameroom. Flies 1000 miles or whatever to play games he can play at home. Fine. Let the convention begin.

Chris and I go into the Century Ballroom where they're having their Invocation Ritual. Huge crowd, all packed in Black-Hole-of-Calcutta style.

Up on stage, some dude with a beard who looks like the lead in "Clerks" takes the lectern drinking one microbrewed beer after another, a big screen behind him. Funny guy; good stage presence. ("Only 40 shoplifting days 'til Christmas!" he shouts: Audience laughs. He shifts to whiskey and shouts: "Jack Daniels is your friend!" -- and the Audience laughs again.)

This Lord of Misrule shucks, jives and reels about for ten minutes or so -- and then we begin the ceremony proper -- a reiteration of the Three Prime Directives of the AWA Convention. We start with the ritual burning of a Magic card --"Magic: the Gathering" being the name of one of the more popular role-playing games (or RPGs, to use the nadsat).

The screen flashes NO MAGIC.

The audience hoots and howls -- "Burn! Burn! Burn!" -- flame consumes the card and the magic is gone.

Next they show a clip of some crappy old guy in a crappy old cape from a crappy old vampire flick. NO VAMPIRES! says the screen.

More hoots and howls. Then a slide of some dork in a Klingon outfit.


And that brings down the roof; the crowd all shouting, stomping, screaming and bloodlust.

Saturday, November 1, 1997

Future Suck

Here's the comedy routine I gave at that place last night on the anniversary of Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast. Bizarre audience responses included.


Buddhism has a lot of resonance to me. Aside from the fact that I want to buy lots of crap, I'm a total Buddhist.

My essential Buddhist revelation is: there is no greater happiness than the happiness you imagine before you open the present.

That was my experience as a kid. I'd be in some department store. I'd see this box -- it'd be the Admiral Nimitz -- this plastic aircraft carrier inside. On the outside, you'd see this lurid cutaway drawing of sailors murdering each other and shit blowing up. Through the shrinkwrap, you could see all these tiny little plastic guys all stacked up inside like black people on slave ships; there'd be these little windows where you'd get little glimpses of this huge, wonderful plastic aircraft carrier that was perfect in every detail -- it was like an illustration in the Hare Krishna Bible, it looked like a religious thing to me. And my parents would get it for Christmas or sumpin. I'd open it up, and then minute I opened it up, it'd turn into a piece of crap. Before the box is open -- hallelujah. Open -- shit. Closed: ahhh. Open: crap. Instantly. If there was only some way I could play with the present before I opened the box, I might have some fun with it. No.

So, you're fucked up if you open the box -- but you're also fucked up if you never open the box. Because you always imagine. What if, what if, what if....

The only other thing I really ever wanted as a child -- goddamnit, I'm getting this shit off my chest, I need therapy! The one thing I always wanted and never got...

What I wanted was a Mister Snowman Snowcone Machine. I don't know if y'all are familiar with this -- it was a Hasbro toy. He resembled a clock -- one of those round alarm clocks -- except he had a head with a top hat. He had a white plastic cylindrical body. His abdominal cavity was glass. You could see into his guts where he would make crushed snowcone flavored-ice. I think you'd put all the stuff in his hat and turn a crank and out of some orifice -- I don't know what -- snowcone slush would emerge. AND I KNEW that if I had a fucking Mister Snowman Snowcone Machine, my life would be perfect. I'd be like Mayor LaGuardia, rule the neighborhood.

(bad Italian accent) Hey-- you wanna some Italian ice? You comma to me. I make you the Italian ice -- you remember the favor. Hey, I do you the favor, you do for me someday. I make you the ice! I make you the big ice!

I would rule the neighborhood. But my father wouldn't get it. He knew it was a piece of crap...

DAD: (tough no-BS voict) That's a piece of crap!

ME: (begging, hysterical) PLEASE!

DAD: No.


DAD: No, by God -- NO. I am not getting you that goddamn Mister Snowman Snowcone Machine!


DAD: NO! I am not getting you that piece of crap -- and that's final! You want a goddamn snowcone? Get some ice outta the fridge and make yer own snowcone. Defrost the fridge and make a snowcone at the same goddamn time!


DAD: No discussion.

And that was it. I could grovel all I wanted...

He wouldn't buy it for me. Dad had lived! He'd opened up enough boxes! He'd been burned before. He knew it was a piece of crap...

If I had gotten it, I'd've opened the box -- bang! Piece of crap. Then I wouldn't want it anymore...

But I never opened the box.

So now, to this day, I still dream of getting a Mister Snowman Snowcone machine....

My other chief childhood trauma of unfulfilled desire was the Ice Cream Man, may his soul rot in hell forever! Mister Softee, OK? The truck had an image of this face that was an ice cream cone -- an ice cream cone head with eyes and a swirl on top. Where's the brain cavity? In the ice cream? The cone itself? That frightened me. I didn't understand the evolutionary mechanism...

I had a problem with anthropomorphic characters as a child, especially the ones that wanted you to eat them. Hi! I'm Chucky the Chicken! Eat me! You know -- and Charley the Tuna. He's a suicidal anthropomorphic tuna fish who looks like Phil Silvers. I always wanted to talk him out of it. No! Don't do it, Charlie! They're going to cut you up, it's not Hollywood, they're going to eat you! No! No, Charley! No, no, don't, don't! You don't understand! I wanted to save him. Poor Charley the Tuna!

But the Mister Softee truck would go around the neighborhood. And he'd play "Sunday Afternoon" ...

A YOUNG WOMAN walks up out of the audience.

ME: Howdy...

YOUNG WOMAN: I think you really need this. (she hugs me) I'm sorry you had an unhappy childhood...

ME: Thank you, thank you. I need support. Thank you.

(She walks back down)

So it'd play the song...Sunday Afternoon...the Little Rascals theme. (whistling theme) And I had like dog ears. I knew when that ice cream truck was within a one mile radius of my house. I never actually saw the ice cream truck stop for any kid at any time. I think the guy was like a sadist who hated children. (Sadist voice) Fuck those goddamn kids! I'm gonna drive 'em crazy! I'm gonna drive around the neighborhood in an ice cream truck and never stop! Ahahahaha...

So I'd be out there...

I hear him! He's in the neighborhood somewhere!

So -- after shoplifting my mother's purse -- mining it for quarters -- OK, here's the liquor money, all right -- I'd go outside.

Nothing. The wind blowing. Mockingbirds. But I could hear him. Very faint. (whistling song) He's out there somewhere...

I'd be like working the lawn-perimiter. Totally alert. Watching the road.

Maybe he's coming from this way. Maybe that way.

I'm ready for you, Mister Softee. This time I'm ready.

Waiting for Mister Softee. Kinda like Waiting for Godot.

I'm out there in the middle of the lawn for hours sweating like this. Clutching my quarters. Then, after awhile -- I gotta go to the bathroom. Wrapping my knees together. Arrgghhh....finally I couldn't stand it. Gotta go...

I'd run inside -- and he'd roar down the street like LeMans -- ROARRRRRR -- I didn't even get to go to the bathroom -- he'd tear from one end of the street to the other ROARRRRRRGHHHHH -- I'd turn around screaming ahhhhhhhhh.....

He roars down to the end of the street -- and he turns. Oh god, oh god -- he's on Conrad! He's heading South. I'm running after him.

Stop you sonofabitch --

Then I remember myself...

(cute child voice) Oh please, mister! Stop! I've got a quarter!



Please mister....

I'd be running....up one street, down the other. Screaming. Switching personalities.

Mister Icecreamman, meanwhile, is doing all the East-West streets in this one block. I'm chasing him -- having these middle class semi asthma attacks pantpantwheeze...then running again. Then he turns onto Brink and he's heading north. LeMans again. ROAARRRRR. No! Then he stops. I'm running....

Stop you fucker...pant, pant, gasp, gasp...


Now he's turning onto Novus...nooo...gahhh...the last street in the subdivision! He's going west...outta the neighboorhood. I run up to Novus Street, and by the time I get there, he's just this dot at the end of the street. I watch him getting smaller and smaller and smaller -- then turning onto Tuttle...turning...turning right...AGGGGGGGGGGH.

And then he's gone...

it's OK. I went out for track in High School.

But the ice cream I imagined...was much better than anything he could've given me. But I still think he was a sick psychopath. In the middle of the night I'd hear him. (whistling tune) fighting the urge to run out. What I imagined was ---

ICE CREAM MAN: So little're awake at two! You're a bad little child. You shouldn't be awake...come into my freezer of death! Ahahaha!

He'd grab you and throw you in with all these frozen child corpses and drive off...

(whistling tune)

The moral of this story is: don't trust the ice cream man...

No, the moral is the ice cream you don't eat tastes a whole lot better than the ice cream you do. There is no greater happiness than the happiness you imagine before you open the present. Present. Ice cream. Whatever...

Take the future, for example. Let's unwrap that and take that out of the box...

The future, oh wow. The future...

We're living in the future....

This is the fucking future.


(threatening metallic Martian voice) Inhabitants of Earth! We of the planet Mars give you this warning: for millenia we have monitored your world; we have found your species to be hostile and warlike. You are technological adults, but moral and ethical infants! For millenia we have ignored you -- but now you come to our world! Now we must warn you: do what you will with earth -- but come to Mars and be destroyed! We now return you to the program regularly scheduled for this time.

Anybody remember that? That was from a really cheesy science fiction movie from the 50s called the Angry Red Planet, as most of you erudite people should know, as you should also know (barking hypemaster voice) TONIGHT IS THE (now quiet -- thinking out oud..counting on fingers) 1939...1999... (shouting again) 60TH ANNIVERSAY minus one...OF THE FAMOUS WAR OF THE WORLDS BROADCAST (thinking again , unsure) by uh HG wrote it OK, the other one ORSON WELES, which went something like...

(bad Orson Welles imitation)

"It was the middle of the 20th century. People thought they owned the earth, but they didn't. People were being watched by bad aliens on Mars. The aliens were much smarter than people but they were cold-hearted. They envied the earth and wanted to take it away from people. Slowly but surely, they drew up their plans against us!"

Actually, the original was much, much longer -- but it was full of these long complicated sentences -- dependent clauses, metaphors, you name it -- so I had to dumb it down. We can't deal with that, nowadays. (reetard voice) Duhhh...I have no attention span! Duh, you have to say it one sentence or I will change the channel on you!

Yes master! Tell us your will, O sacred reetard! Perhaps there's a stupid person out there who doesn't understand us -- let's dumb it down some more!

Dumbing down is hard, I'll have you know. As an intelligent, educated aware human being it's an endless challenge to me to take my really brilliant ideas turn them into soundbites for the stupid fucking American public and their three-second attention span -- present company excepted, of course.

And what I really think we need to do is apply this dumbing down principle to religions. All religions should be required to state their essential premise in one sentence.

So Christianity -- "Accept God's unconditional love or burn in hell forever!"

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Praise the Lord!

Buddhism: "Life sucks -- get over it! OK?" Simple -- you don't have to go to college. It's simple!

Desire to be desireless.

Like I said, I Buddhism has a lotta resonance for me...

Good night.

Thursday, October 2, 1997

Monday, September 8, 1997

Teevee or not teevee

OK, here's what the Sarasota Herald Tribune had to say ...

People watching
Sarasota Arts Review is expanding to TV soon. All the arts and entertainment news that's fit to print sometimes doesn't fit, publishers Su Byron and Marty Fugate said at a recent bash at the Sanderling Clubhouse, so they'll take to TV twice monthly on Channel 36. The first airing of "Arts TV" will air Oct. 1 at 9:30 p.m. Bruce Baughman is producing.

Friday, August 29, 1997

Judgement Day

Skynet hasn't dropped the big one yet. So far, so good, but the day's not over yet.

Monday, June 23, 1997

The Adman, behind blue eyes

Here's a fun fact.

America -- and basically the entire Western world --subsidizes almost all of its intellectual and cultural life on the back of advertising. The marketplace of stuff pays for the marketplace of ideas. Free speech ain't really free. Advertising pays for it.

As a result, newspapers, magazines radio and TV shows are dirt cheap. Gosh, what a win-win situation for the content consumer!

Most content is basically free.

You may think you're paying for it--but that quarter you pump in the newsstand or the check you send for basic cable is chump change. It's a very small percentage of the real cost of the content you enjoy. You don't pay for content. Content is basically a loss leader. You access content and advertising comes with it. Advertisers pay for the content. What they're really paying for is you--access to your ears, eyeballs and brain. To get that access, advertisers pay for car explosions and George Will's inane baseball references. It's the cost of doing business.

Advertising's paying for the show.

It's naive to assume advertising wouldn't try to control the show.

If Satan picks up the check, Satan's going to tell you what to order.

YOU: Uh, excuse me, Mr. Satan. I don't wanna order the child's plate.

SATAN: You paying for this fucking meal?

YOU: No.

SATAN: Then go fuck yourself.

There's a notion floating around that there's a "wall of separation" between advertising and editorial content. There ain't no wall. That's a polite fiction. Everybody knows it's bullshit.

Here's how it works.

If advertisers take out ads, they assume there's a quid pro quo. They figure, in addition to paying for ad space, their money entitles them to cover stories, interviews and favorable coverage.

Advertisers will call you and preemptively try to kill stories that hurt their business interests.

Beyond blunt quid pro quo, advertisers will pressure you to take certain editorial positions. Say, there's a notion that Sarasota is the lovely arts community by the sea. If you (or one of your writers) say it ain't, they'll tar and feather you and ride you out of town on a rail.

This applies at all levels, from shitty tabloid publications to big time Hollywood.

Back in the 1960s, there was something called the Payola scandal. Basically, DJs gave airtime to records in exchange for money and stuff. The world we live in now is so far beyond payola it's sickening. It's all payola.

In the big world of electronic media, TV talk shows are basically ad PR for somebody's latest project disguised as a conversation. TALK SHOWS ARE COMMERCIALS.

LENO: How do you do it, Arnold?

ARNOLD: Well, it's really kind of magical. I become Mister Freeze. It is really the costume that does it. That's my process.

LENO: Look! Wolfgang Puck has a frozen dessert!

Audience laughs.

Interviews with directors and actors are highly stage managed. You read the byline, you think it's one dude doing the interview. It's a ROOMFUL OF REPORTERS asking a list of pre-approved questions under the prior agreement that the interview subject can vet the quotes -- in other words, rewrite it. These "reporters" are bought off with hotel rooms and baskets of designer goodies.

There's obvious shit like product placement. James Bond drives a fucking Beamer now. Pardonme moneypen, while I check the time on my Rolex watch. But Bond movies don't need product placement. IT'S ALL PRODUCT PLACEMENT for cars, suits, vacation resorts, the whole fucking package of the life we all dream of.


They ain't saying it outloud. But they're saying it.

That's the basic message in the Alice in Wonderland world on the other side of the tube. A freaking waitress lives in a 100,000 square foot house the size of an airplane hanger stuffed with gleaming, wonderful shiny objects.

Advertising pays for content.

Ineluctably, our content has turned into advertising.

Sunday, May 11, 1997

Flag a' Fryin' Dept.

Originally posted in "Free Speech" forum on ACLU message boards.

Aw c'mon. Not this flag-burning shit again. As Saint Bill Hicks once said, it's not like there's exactly an epidemic of flag-burning going on out there....

Re: DocRobby25
"But on the day the constitution was written.... I am willing to bet that there wasn't a SINGLE 'American' that had thoughts of burning the American flag." Um sorry. Maybe I outta go back in time and burn one...."

OK. I'm sure you'll admit you don't have a time machine. And -- I'm also willing to
bet you don't have a thought-reading machine.

So, failing a verifiable Obi Wan Kenobi appearance of the Founding Fathers ...

ME: What was your intention, anyway?

FOUNDING FATHERS: Our original intent was to get the British off our ass so
we could make shitloads of money and kill the Indians...

... the only thing you can talk about when you're referring to the
Constitution & Bill of Rights is WHAT THE WORDS MEAN, and not what was,
hypothetically, in somebody's bewigged head way back when.

What the words mean in the first amendment is pretty damn simple. Off the top
of my head -- "Congress shall make no law restricting free speech." No law. None.

You say there's a legal basis for not restricting flag burning because:

"If you own your own flag.... you can do with it as you please. No one has the right to tell you what you can or can't do with your stuff." And, after setting up that strawman, you say: "But hey.... why speed limits? We own our own cars right?"


But the issue isn't "I have an absolute right to do what I want to with my
stuff" -- which everybody knows isn't the case (and which you were so easily
able to illustrate). The issue is: "I have an absolute right to free speech."
(Within the obvious limits of contract law, not telling Joe to put a
bullethole in Jane, yattayatta.)

You have the right to burn your flag, not because you own it, but because
that act is a form of speech.

Why people get so crazy over a piece of cloth is beyond me -- I can only
speculate (and more on that later).

Why do you think us comsymps get so crazy about the right-to-burn-the-flag?

I mean it's not like I've got some burning desire to go out for an Old Glory
Roast, tonight -- like some kinda Weather Underground Satanic reversal of the
Fourth of July where parades of freaks go marching up and down Main Street
chanting "Fuck America! Fuck America!" each with a flaming flag in their
hands. No. I have better things to do with my time.

If you make a No-Burnee-Flagee law, its legal foundation is the principle of IMAGE AS PROPERTY. This principle is older than the principle of free speech. It has survived, side-by-side, with the principle of free speech. The principles are inconsistent and contradictory. They're basically at war.

Allow me to expand.

Here's a few fun facts to know and tell:

Did you know?

That the Founding Fathers you worship applied the social contract principles of Locke and Hobbes to their newly formed constitution. These principles replaced a previous legal theory. Before the right to free speech was established, the prevailing legal notion was that image and reputation were forms of property. Dueling was justified according to the notion that an insult constituted real damages. That notions of libel and slander (and the penalties attached) were much stricter because of this legal theory. If you spoke ill of the nobility, the church or anyone with any power, you could be slammed in jail.

Did you know that vestiges of this legal theory survive in statute law (especially laws governing libel and slander?).

That W.C. Field's face is somebody's property?

That, via the miracle of necromarketing, Fred Astaire can sell vacuum cleaners?*

That recent Supreme Court decisions have kicked the press in the nads, particularly the Food Lion case.**

That Janet Malcolm didn't go to jail because, by a miracle, she found her interview notes?

That I could go to jail if I drew a cartoon of Mickey Mouse buggering Donald Duck?

That, without express permission and consent, it is not legal to publish of photograph of anything in DisneyWorld other than the SKY because they own the rights to the image of every building, every stone, every rock within?

That Hemingway's heirs are hassling the Key West politicos who've been running a Hemingway Festival that's just too damn grubby, besides which they're not making any money, which they damn well should, because they own his face; they own his image?

What unites all these disjointed cases is they're all expression of the impact of controlling the image on free speech. The argument raised in most of these cases is: I own the image to this actor, this dead guy, my store, my vacation resort -- therefore your editorial cartoon, your parody, whatever isn't just a form of free speech. It's a form of theft. It's a personal attack.

Let's say the government can say: "You can't burn the flag." What the government is really saying is: "We control this particular image. You don't have the right to modify, degrade or destroy it."

In the case of the flag, control of the image -- obviously -- means control of the idea behind the image. Flag=America. Burning flag=disrespect. Flags aren't toxic substances. The problem is the symbolism. Burning the flag is a symbolic act. It's an expression of an idea. If the no-flag-burning amendment passes, expressing that particular idea becomes illegal. It's a step backwards to the earlier legal theory.

Well, OK. Why not Jesus? America's one nation under God, right? And here we are -- and there's millions of God-fearing Arabs would like to put a bullet in Salman Rushdie's head because he insulted the prophet -- and nobody wants to do a damn thing about Serrano and his "Piss Christ." I mean, what is Jesus anyway, chopped liver?

But let's be broadminded. Let's pass a broad-minded "It's something sacred!" act banning desecration of Jesus, Moses, Joseph Smith, Buddha, Mohammed, not to mention assorted crosses, stars of David, om symbols, etc.

From here, it ain't much of a jump to politicos slamming cartoonists in jail because they didn't like the caricature.

*Through the miracle of CGI, Fred Astaire dances with a Dirt Devil in a commercial launched at the 1997 Superbowl. His heirs sold the right to the image.

**An ABC journalist with a hidden camera caught the grocery store selling bad meat in 1992. Federal Court found him guilty of fraud.

Friday, April 25, 1997

Transgressing the Boundaries

Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity

Alan Sokal's satire of post-modern bibble-babble disguised as scholarship. Text below jump ...

Wednesday, February 12, 1997

This just in

In a recent out of court settlement with R.J. Reynolds and Phillip Morris, ABC news recently apologized and recanted on charges that the tobacco companies routinely spiked their cigarettes with added nicotine.

In a related development, Oceania is now at war with Eastasia. Oceania, of course, has always been at war with Eastasia.

Tuesday, February 11, 1997

Palmer Eldricht, lifecoach

Re: "Stigmata"

Palmer notes that he's read the book...

Yup. Another brilliant creation from the mind of Philip K. Dick. Hollywood has scarcely begun to mine this guy...

Etc., etc.

So you're comparing yourself to an evil fucker who wants to suck everybody into his solipsistic universe on purpose.


Just checking.

Saturday, February 1, 1997


Fred Astaire ... dancing around with a Dirt Devil?

The only word for this is necromarketing.

Tuesday, January 7, 1997

Fugate's 382nd Law

Free is the most expensive.

Wednesday, January 1, 1997

Fugate's 113th Law

A service economy is an economy of servants.